One of my dearest friends recently faced a major work issue. Turns out she’d sent classified, internal information to a client by accident. This could get me fired, she said.
Fortunately, she didn’t lose her job, but the mistake was significant, and it required her to have an uncomfortable if not downright unpleasant conversation with both her boss and the client. It’s obvious that this wasn’t a simple work issue, and needed to be handled with care.
But what about all of the work problems we complicate with our messy minds? We blow things out of proportion, overthinking this or that, fretting about what this person or that thinks, rereading a chat or an email chain and swearing up and down that we’re idiots because of one, tiny, thing that’s basically a non-issue.
To be sure, occasionally a professional flub can lead to termination or even just a stern warning from your manager or human resources department, but the majority of everyday, common issues, interpersonal or otherwise, are ones we’re overthinking.
Here are five common ones that don’t need to be complicated:
1. Forgetting to Attach the Attachment
So you said “attached” and forgot to attach. It’s really not a big deal. Either you’ll catch the small error yourself and will rectify it immediately by following up with an, “Oops, looks like I forgot to attach the deck!” or you’ll be notified with a gentle, “Looks like the attachment never made it,” message and you’ll proceed to attach, and all will be well. Don’t overthink it.
2. Missing a Team Meeting
Although not quite mandatory, the monthly team meeting is one that you’re expected to attend and contribute to. You have a stellar record and are pleased that your boss and co-workers can count on your participation, and then you have a conflict, and you realize at the last minute that you can’t make it. You give your boss a couple hours’ notice and then stress for the rest of the week about what he’s going to say to you the next time you have your one-on-one.
So, you vow to write a long email later that night, explaining that it won’t happen again, that you’ll do a better job with managing your schedule, and you’re really so very sorry. First of all, don’t write or send that message. Secondly, stop turning nothing into something. Get the missed info from one of your colleagues and move on. People miss meetings; nobody cares all that much.
3. Taking a Long Lunch
Your cousin’s in town with a jam-packed schedule, and the only time the two of you can find time to meet is during the week over lunch. While you often head out midday to run an errand or get fresh air, you don’t regularly leave for more than an hour. Sushi with your cousin has you gone for 90 minutes, and by the time you plant yourself back at your desk, you’re sure your boss is breathing fire over you, and you’re freaking out.
Look, unless you work in the kind of environment where your every move is monitored, this is really not a big deal. Really, unless your supervisor is the type to demand to know what you’re up to every minute of every working hour, don’t even mention it. Resume your work and act normal and natural because you are.
4. Giving Constructive Feedback
The new person on your team is great, but she’s a little green and doesn’t seem to fully grasp the way your department likes to approach initial sales calls. You’ve been working with her and noticing that she often fails to follow the simple order that everyone else on the team uses.
So, because it’s part of your job, you offer her some constructive feedback. You point out what she’s doing well, and you also let her know what needs work and why. You offer suggestions for how to improve, then spend the rest of day worried she must think you’re awful and will probably give you the cold shoulder from here on out. No one said giving feedback would be the best part of your day, but it’s an expected and understood part of any job—both giving and receiving. It doesn’t have to consume you if you remember it’s simply part of working with other people.
5. Talking About Your Saturday Night
It’s Monday morning and you’ve got a full to-do list, so when you arrive at your desk, you’re fully focused—until your co-worker asks you how your weekend was, and your boss gets in on the conversation, too. Before you know it, you’ve told them both about the party you went to on Saturday, including details about the woman you met!
Although they both seemed eager to hear the whole story, as soon as you open your email and turn your mind to work mode, you begin to worry that you said too much. Did they really need to know that you were ready to leave the party moments before your buddy Henry introduced you to that woman? That you spent hours talking about TV shows and that you walked her home?
Cut yourself some slack. You’re a multi-dimensional person who has a life outside of the office. As long as you didn’t go on and on about sex, drugs, getting nearly arrested, or throwing up in your kitchen sink, you’re fine! Even if you shared a little more than your boss or co-workers, the only person who’s thinking anything’s off is you. Seriously. Everything’s OK.
Whether you stress about leaving every Wednesday at 5 PM to make it to the kickboxing class you love or you get anxious about strolling in after everyone else on Friday mornings, know that the “work issues” you’re experiencing are all in your head. Unless you’re doing a crappy job and putting in zero effort, the odd email-related error or the office social gathering you bail on aren’t anything to get worked up over. The resulting panic is the only thing likely to complicate things.
Photo of man looking worried courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.